Prostate Cancer

The prostate is a golf-ball-sized gland that sits between the bladder and the penis. It secretes fluid that nourishes and protects sperm. Most older men have some cancer cells in their prostate glands. But because these cells usually grow slowly, they don't cause symptoms or affect health in most men. That said, about 230,000 American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and nearly 30,000 die of it.

Exactly why some men develop full-blown prostate cancer and others don't is a mystery. But researchers have identified several factors that raise a man's risk of the disease. These include:

Age. Older men are far more likely to develop prostate cancer than younger men.

Race. African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men, and to be diagnosed with more advanced-stage cancer.

Family history. A man whose father or brother has been diagnosed with prostate cancer is two to three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than a man who doesn't have family members with the disease.

Lifestyle. Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products seem to have a higher risk of prostate cancer.

Treatments for prostate cancer include an operation to remove the prostate (prostatectomy) and radiation therapy. Both often cause side effects such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Since early treatment with surgery or radiation doesn't necessarily "cure" the disease, and prevents relatively few men from dying from prostate cancer, more and more men are opting for a strategy known as watchful waiting or active surveillance. They and their doctors monitor the low-risk cancer closely and choose treatment only when the disease appears to make threatening moves toward growing and spreading.

Prostate Cancer Articles

Prostate cancer: What's your risk?

The major factors that determine a man's risk for prostate cancer are age, family history, and race and ethnicity. It is not proven that men at higher risk who are tested for hidden cancer are less likely to develop more advanced cancer or die from it. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Prostate cancer and multivitamins

A clinical trial called SELECT showed that taking high doses of selenium and vitamin E could increase a man's risk of prostate cancer. The amounts of these nutrients in multivitamins are much lower, and have not been linked to prostate cancer. (Locked) More »

Prostate help: A test that can help you avoid unnecessary prostate biopsies

PSA testing to check for hidden prostate cancer in other wise healthy men identifies a potential risk but is not a diagnosis. Diagnosing cancer requires a prostate needle biopsy, which is painful for some men and may lead to bleeding and infection. In men with moderately elevated PSA levels, three-quarters of biopsies do not confirm the presence of cancer. The PCA3 test can help some men avoid unnecessary repeat biopsies after a biopsy does not find cancer and PSA levels remain high. (Locked) More »

An option for low-risk prostate cancer

After prostate cancer diagnosis, many men choose immediate treatment with surgery or radiation. But immediate treatment is not the only option. Some men with early low-risk prostate cancers can choose to hold off on the decision to treat until the disease presents a greater threat. At that later date, the cancer can still be treated effectively. The approach is called active surveillance with delayed intention to treat. Bothersome and potentially permanent side effects of treatment include erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence. By choosing active surveillance, some men can avoid the risks of treating a cancer that may be unlikely to cause them serious harm within their lifespan. (Locked) More »

Should you get a PSA test?

The latest thinking in PSA testing is that prostate cancer screening should not be offered routinely to all men. Because of the testing, many men are diagnosed and treated for cancers that would not have made them sick or shortened their lives. For such men, the treatment—which can produce side effects—is worse than the disease. Although PSA screening has been thought to offer most potential benefit to men at elevated risk, such as African American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer, this has not been shown in studies conducted to date.  (Locked) More »

FDA approves new PSA test

The newly approved Prostate Health Index test is for men 50 years and older with a total PSA in the "gray zone"—between 4.0 and 10 nanograms per milliliter—and whose physical exam does not find signs of cancer. (Locked) More »

Acetaminophen and prostate cancer

I was very interested in your article on aspirin and cancer. You commented that aspirin may help prevent cancer, but I can't take aspirin, even in low doses. I use Tylenol for pain and fever - can it also help against cancer? (Locked) More »